This week — our last week on the planet according to a handful of ancient cultures — we've been taking time out to consider the best and worst hockey logos of all time. Monday we covered the Top 10 NHL logos. Tuesday brought the best and worst of the AHL. Next is the ECHL.
The East Coast Hockey League was founded in 1988. When it merged with the West Coast Hockey League in 2003, it became known simply as the ECHL. Over the last 24 years, many teams have come and gone along with a great many logos. Today, I'll try to quantify them. The Top 5 and the Bottom 5.
Top 5: The Best Logos
1. Orlando Solar Bears
Yes, I firmly believe that the best logo the ECHL has ever seen came in its final year of existence — if the Maya and Hopi are to be believed. This season brought about the resurrection of an IHL team that was founded in 1995 and was disbanded when the league folded in 2001. The Orlando Solar Bears were re-established with this absolute gem of a logo from the immensely talented Joe Bosack. His firm has been responsible for most of the sporting world's greatest logos in recent years. If the world weren't ending, I'd say we could hope for many more to come.
He's done amazing things here. It's hard to believe that a polar bear wearing sunglasses and holding a hockey stick while surrounded by the brightest color palette in sports could be among the best logos. But it is. Right there at the top and everything.
2. Kalamazoo Wings
In minor league hockey, clubs come and go frequently. But often new teams in old markets are branded with familiar names and marks. It's something I touched on yesterday with the Peoria Rivermen. The Kalamazoo Wings are another example. The name and winged-K logo date back to 1974 in the International Hockey League. In 1995, they became the Michigan K-Wings, adopting the simplified nickname. When they lost their affiliation in 2000, the team shut down. But over in the United Hockey League, a Wisconsin-based team head to Kalamazoo and adopted the classic moniker. In 2009, that team transferred to the ECHL. Now this history lesson isn't what makes this a good logo. The simple and beautiful design, on the other hand, does. The longevity proves it.
3. Florida Everblades
I know. How is it possible that two Florida hockey teams crack the Top 5 ECHL logos of all time? You could call it a bias toward my home state. But then you'd just sound silly. The Florida Everblades' logo may be a little more intricate than the two that preceded it, but every detail just improves it. It's one of those rare instances where a ferocious animal really gets the job done.
4. Wheeling Nailers
Back to "simplicity is king" with this one. The Wheeling Nailers absolutely nailed their logo. And I'm sorry about the poor pun, but I'm writing this at 3 AM when I should be sleeping. The old-time goalie mask and crossed railroad ties (I presume) provide this West Virginia hockey team with the ideal mark. Now if only they hadn't gone and ruined it this year by dropping the red. That was a big disappointment.
The franchise was created in 1981 in the Atlantic Coast Hockey League as the Carolina Thunderbirds. After that league folded, they became a founding member of the ECHL in 1988. They moved to Wheeling in 1992 and a few years later lost a trademark dispute with — of all teams — the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds (or so says Wikipedia). In 1996, they became the Nailers and have always used some variation of this logo.
5. South Carolina Stingrays
In one fell swoop back in 2008, the South Carolina Stingrays went from having the ECHL's worst logo to one of its best. If you don't believe me, take a look at who leads the Bottom 5 below. This is a classic, clean and simple logo, the likes of which we rarely see in minor league hockey. But the good news is that marks like this have been the trend in recent years. Thank goodness.
I have to give a shoutout to some of the logos that got serious consideration for the Top 5 list. These would definitely be in my Top 10 though. The Cincinnati Cyclones is just awesome. It's not an animal, but the designer gave a twister an angry face and a hockey stick anyway. The Cyclones have existed with this logo in multiple forms dating back to 1990.
Then there's the Boise-based Idaho Steelheads, a carryover from the WCHL where they were founded in 1997. They survived the 2003 merger but have changed their logo a couple of times recently. As of last year, it's now just a fish. Way to be on the nose. I loved the goalie mask with the ricocheting puck.
And lastly, what can you say about the Greensboro Generals? The franchise only existed for five seasons from 1999 to 2004, but it provided my favorite wordmark logo of all time. Just goes to show you don't need an angry animal biting a hockey stick to make a sharp logo. Hey, as a matter of fact...
Bottom 5: The Worst Logos
1. South Carolina Stingrays
Look at that. It's torture. This piece of feces was not created in the 1970s or 80s as it may seem. No, the South Carolina Stingrays adopted this ugly excuse for a drawing as a logo in 2000. And players actually wore it on their sweaters. Really. How could one man do that to another? I know I'm being harsh, but there are no redeeming qualities here. Let's move on.
2. San Francisco Bulls
If not for that blasted Stingrays thing, the year to end all years (a.k.a. 2012) would've brought us both the best and the worst the ECHL ever had to offer. Seeing what the Solar Bears came up with gave us high hopes for the ECHL's other 2012 expansion franchise. But the San Francisco Bulls logo wasn't just disappointing, it was almost appalling. Who would look at those two logos and believe they were created in the same year? I'd love to see how they're looked upon in 2032, but I suppose the point of all this is that we won't be making it that far.
3. Greenville Grrrowl
Maybe it's all the Rs. Maybe it's the cross-eyed puppy biting a hockey puck. All I know is this is not a logo that should've ever been worn by professional hockey players. And yet for eight seasons from 1998 to 2006, it was. Then the team met with financial ruin and ceased to exist. What a relief.
4. New Orleans Brass
You'd think I had something against the color combination of purple and gold. I assure you I don't but there are better ways of putting it to use than with these logos. The New Orleans Brass, for one, had a bad name. But all I can think of when I see this logo is that rejected St. Louis Blues third jersey from 1996. You know, the one the players almost had to wear but for Mike Keenan stepping in with some dignity-saving common sense. But associations aside, this is just a poor logo. Nothing about it tells me I'm about to see some hard-hitting hockey. Maybe a symphony?
5. Mississippi Sea Wolves
So many bad logos deserve to be on this list, but I had to limit myself to five. And as such, our final spot belongs to the Mississippi Sea Wolves. It's an abomination of a logo. All I want to know is why the sea wolf captain has an earring and a hook. I'm glad the madness is behind us, but I do feel bad that the team was force to shut down because of the lingering impact of Hurricane Katrina. No team deserves to go out that way. Not even one with a logo as bad as this.
And there you have it. The best and worst logos of the ECHL. Would you agree? Did I leave out any logos that should've been on one of these lists?
We'll wrap up the week — and our time on Earth — tomorrow with the Top 10 worst NHL logos. The world will then end sometime on Friday. Dawn? Noon? Anyone know when?